From Birding

Lifebird #1 – A House Sparrow in Paradise

House Sparrows photographed in HanaI evolved from a bird watcher and feeder to a list-keeping birder over a period of years. I started feeding birds, as near as I can remember, shortly after buying my first Minnesota home in 1996. I remember seeing chickadees and cardinals at my feeder there (not many; my relatively bare and treeless front yard was not a great location for it), and I remember that one year a robin nested on our back porch light. But my feeder was empty most of the time, I didn’t really learn anything about my feathered visitors, and I didn’t own binoculars or a field guide.

Joann and I bought our Little Canada home in 2002 and were married in June of 2003. I put up feeders sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2003. At about the same time, I bought a small, cheap pair of binoculars and my first field guide (Birds of Minnesota and Wisconsin by Janssen, Tessen and Kennedy). Joann and I tried to identify any unfamiliar birds at our feeders, and began to keep track of what we’d seen by writing down dates (often just a month and year) in our field guide. I also began photographing birds (with my cheap little 3X zoom digital camera) at our feeders.

House SparrowHouse SparrowHouse Sparrow

It wasn’t until May of 2006 that I stepped outside of the role of casual birdwatcher to become a full-fledged list-keeping birder. I had tracked at least some of my first sightings (the notes in the field guide), but at what point did my “lifelist” start? It had to begin somewhere, and so I decided that any birds I’d noted or photographed since putting up the feeders belonged on my list. The “cutoff date,” I decided, would be June 17, 2003—the day I married Joann.

When first compiled, the top of my list consisted solely of birds seen at our feeders. I had to revise my list, though, after looking through photographs taken in Hawaii during my honeymoon. This is how the drab and unexciting House Sparrow became my first “lifer.”

At least I didn’t see it in a drab, unexciting place. Joann and I made the long and winding drive to Hana—a must-do for any visitor to the island of Maui—and ate our lunch outside at the Hana Ranch Restaurant. Lifebird number one and its mates did me the favor of landing on the table next to us a few feet from my camera, and posing for the historic occasion.

Species  House Sparrow / Passer domesticus
Where USA-HI-Maui Island
When Jun 24 2003
Who Joann
Number 1

See lifebird index.